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Cell Phone Tower Location Search


Take this hypothetical for instance:

You're driving in your car, and for some reason the police want to arrest you. We see it all the time in movies…the Feds tap the cell phone towers, triangulate your position, and there you have it—the police find exactly where you are.

But wait, even though we see it in the movies all the time doesn't mean it's legal. So let's ask the question: "whether officers need a search warrant to track a suspect with real-time cell site location information?"

Tracey v. State

The Florida Supreme Court sought to answer the question presented above. In this case, the court determined that your cell phone location (essentially where you are) is important enough to warrant some type of privacy from the government, and society as a whole is now prepared to recognize that your cell phone location is objectively reasonable as a private concern due to all of the continually evolving nature of technology. Put simply, (in Florida) your cellular location is a privacy interest that you now possess, and law enforcement cannot get it without a warrant.

Does the length of the time matter?

Not to put law enforcement in a bad light, but they argued—hey, we only looked at the location for a very short amount of time, so technically it's not too bad. In a technical sense, small invasions of privacy are sometimes allowed (we see it everyday, and most of the time we do not care). However, in this case and for something this important, the Florida Court did not want to implement a hard line rule that states—this length of time is violative of the Fourth Amendment and this amount of time is not. The court stated, "we [cannot] avoid this danger by setting forth a chart designating how many hours or days of monitoring may be conducted without crossing the threshold of the Fourth Amendment."

Bottom line, in Florida at this point in time, law enforcement cannot gather information about your cellular location with first getting a search warrant. Rest assured, if you're at the beach on Sanibel Island, relax and know that the police cannot use your phone's location to find out where you are at without a search warrant.

If you find yourself facing charges where a law enforcement search is involved, do not hesitate to give The Meranda Law Firm, LTD. a call. We are diligent and hard-working legal professionals that know what it takes to succeed in your criminal defense.